ECOWAP : a fragmented policy
“A common agricultural policy for Africa”, in summary this is the direction of ECOWAP (regional agricultural investment program) initiated in 2005 by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
10 years on, what efforts have been made, what efforts are still required? Oxfam has drawn up a critical report (extract below1). A lack of political will, of coordination between countries dispersed in other initiatives and regional projects, often disconnected from local agricultural realities ... these are the obstacles to ECOWAP’s take-off. The policy also suffers from under-investment both financially and in terms of the resources allocated to it.
Yet, at the heart of ECOWAP are virtuous principles in particular with regards regulatory measures and income security for farmers and it seems to be the most appropriate framework for facing the challenges of food security.
momagri Editorial Board
Following the global food crisis of 2008–9, the regional process that was launched between 2009 and 2011 gave real impetus to ECOWAP, the Regional Agricultural Policy adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) back in 2005. In 2009, the signature of the Regional Partnership Compact for the Implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme in West Africa (ECOWAP/CAADP) rallied key actors around common commitments, particularly those linked to the application of the principles of leadership, alignment and coordination to all regional interventions in the food and agriculture sector.
This agreement was followed by the adoption of the Regional Agricultural Investment Programme (RAIP) in 2010, which shaped regional agricultural policy, and the creation of the institutional framework for steering, executing and financing RAIP. This framework is composed of the Regional Agency for Agriculture and Food (RAAF) and the Regional Food and Agriculture Development Fund (ECOWAPDF) as well as several consultative bodies. At the same time, ECOWAS was steering similar processes in member countries, with the aim of formulating national agricultural investment plans (NAIPs). ECOWAS thereby showed its leadership in steering the initiative as well as its commitment to operationalize ECOWAP, while at the same time pushing development partners to put the principles of aid effectiveness into practice.
Unfortunately, six years later the outcome seems quite stark. As the ECOWAS Memorandum on the activities carried out in 2011–12 rightly highlighted, ‘the move from multiple programmes and projects to an integrated approach within a coherent policy constitutes an extremely complex exercise’. This exercise is made even more difficult by the fact that not all stakeholders take part in coordination efforts, while others go as far as to promote and finance parallel intervention frameworks, as is largely the case in the region.
From the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative promoted by the G8 in 2009 to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 (including objective 2: the elimination of hunger by 2030) and the adoption by the Committee on World Food Security of the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises (CFS-FFA), international initiatives have underscored the leadership of countries or regional institutions and the alignment of development partner interventions with existing frameworks and policies. Yet the existing institutional framework seems unable to channel the initiatives of international donors, and RAIP is far from representing a reference framework for agricultural and food interventions in the region.
Several largely interrelated factors may explain this situation. First, ECOWAS went back on all its financial commitments in the food and agriculture sector to address other pressing priorities around security and health. Consequently, although the regional fund was created, it has never been financed, and without financial investment, ECOWAS has lost part of its capacity to spearhead the activity of development partners.
Furthermore, RAAF remains a young structure with an insufficient team and is yet to exert influence. There is a view, largely shared by development partners, that it does not yet have sufficient autonomy vis-à-vis the ECOWAS Department of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources. It does not offer sufficient guarantees to manage the funds or have the capacity to manage large-scale projects. While several donors are providing their funds through other regional institutions, ECOWAS and the RAAF find themselves unable to coordinate all the projects, some of which are weakly aligned with the guidelines or the institutional framework of ECOWAP.
Certain institutions that donors consider to be less restrictive are experiencing a new upswing. This is the case for CILSS (Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel), for example, which has been implementing a growing number of regional programmes financed by development partners in recent years. Recent conventions signed with non-traditional CILSS donors (the World Bank, African Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank) currently account for several hundred million dollars. Despite the fact that CILSS is supposed to act as the ‘technical arm’ of ECOWAS in the implementation of ECOWAP, ECOWAS bodies are not involved in the design of numerous regional programmes implemented by CILSS. Faced with this fait accompli, they can only integrate these projects as contributions to the implementation of ECOWAP after the event, even if the direction, the scope of the intervention, or the institutional provisions do not necessarily correspond to those defined by ECOWAS.
For its part, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) adopted a new 10-year Programme for Agricultural Transformation for Food Security and Nutrition (PCD-TASAN) in 2014 (with a certain delay in relation to the revision of ECOWAP). This programme calls for a ‘paradigmatic shift’ in the agriculture sector, having noted the failure of previous approaches, such as the implementation of NAIPs. The provisional programme formulation report, which provides a detailed account of all the component projects, makes almost no mention of the RAIP adopted by ECOWAS in 2010, although it largely covers the same intervention areas.
In a context that is already deeply fragmented, development partners are exacerbating rather than helping the situation. The ECOWAP Group that was supposed to bring together key development partners at the regional level through a coordination mechanism is not succeeding in playing a convening role. Since the main donors in the region are largely absent from meetings, participation falters; those who do participate do not always have the information and/or the necessary mandate to involve their institutions in real coordination efforts.
The intervention mapping exercise conducted within the framework of the ECOWAP Group constitutes a first effort in the quest for greater transparency. Nevertheless, almost 90 percent of the programmes recorded in the 2013 database do not specify which of RAIP’s three objectives they contribute to; rendering any coordination effort (beyond a mere information exchange) difficult. The ordinary analytical work that would normally allow collective needs assessments or reviews or common instructions has not been carried out.
Finally, the mapping provides only a partial picture of regional investments since it does not systematically include programmes that are implemented without a direct link to ECOWAS. This highlights the weak links that exist between the ECOWAP Group and other groups of technical and financial partners (TFP) working in the food and agriculture sector in the region, whether with WAEMU or CILSS. Even if all coordination and alignment efforts are commendable in principle, it seems highly problematic that there is so little coordination and no overall supervision.
There are also some questions over the coherence and legitimacy of these different groups, given that some of the largest regional donors such as the World Bank or the European Commission (EC) are represented at CILSS but do not participate (or no longer participate) in ECOWAP Group meetings.
In this complex institutional context, certain international initiatives or initiatives promoted by development partners add confusion, by promoting new spaces for coordination and programming. The commitment by ECOWAS countries to formulate their ‘national resilience priorities’ (NRPs) within the framework of the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR) - Sahel and West Africa is an example of this, since its timeframe was more aligned with the programming of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) than with upcoming revisions of the NAIPs and RAIP. Even if countries that have developed NRPs have based it on their NAIP, most actors involved remain unclear about how future national agricultural investment programmes will function.
The World Bank’s Sahel Initiative and the Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project (PRAPS), which is one of the initiative’s five main components, provides another illustration of the difficulties involved in aligning programmes implemented by development partners with those of the RAIP. PRAPS includes two countries from outside ECOWAS (Chad and Mauritania) as well as Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and it makes reference to the Nouakchott Declaration adopted on 29 October 2013 by six Heads of State and Government at the initiative of the World Bank, in what constitutes a political framework primarily elaborated for the occasion.
More generally, the multitude of multi-actor platforms as a result of global initiatives or initiatives promoted by donors since 2009, which were supposed to ensure inclusive dialogue and participation, raises the question of whether there is a real will on the part of actors to streamline the multi-layered coordination frameworks that currently serve the region poorly.
It is essential for the first 10-year review process of ECOWAP to bring about a strong political commitment shared by all actors for a single common agricultural policy in West Africa. In order to achieve this, all regional actors (institutions and regional organizations, Member States, development partners, the private sector and civil society groups) must work together to:
1 The entire report is available on Oxfam France’s website
- Adopt a single regional policy for the agriculture, food security and nutrition sector, which allows effective alignment of the objectives and formulation exercises of different regional organizations and of all the development partners involved in the sector;
- Rationalize the mandates and resources of regional institutions to allow effective coordination of their efforts and complementarity of their actions in the implementation of this common policy;
- Strengthen the regional institutional framework adopted by ECOWAS in 2010 and align the interventions of development actors with it in order to allow ECOWAS to play its full role in both the financing and implementation of regional programmes;
- Ensure effective coordination of development partner interventions by streamlining existing coordination mechanisms and promoting thematic groups that allow them to advance their programmatic, institutional and financial alignment within the political and institutional regional framework.